So you want to write… 5!

I’m beginning to plan what I ma going to do with my first session of my own group for the creative writing class for U3A (University of the 3rd Age) As I mentioned before I am going to be sharing someone else’s class which has got too large in numbers to work successfully and for which there is a waiting list. So I have inherited three possibly four people from the awaiting list, and two and maybe three people have transferred from the other group. I am looking forward to it, but the same as every teacher, I have a slight sense of nervousness at starting with a new class!

The other class gets set a topic to write about each month and then the following session is spent listening to people reading out their stories… that to me is a creative reading group…  I don’t want to upset anyone by changing what they are used to but at the same time I do want to try and guide them to being better writers, and that can’t be done just by saying “Well done! I really enjoyed your story!” There has to be some sort of guidance and support and advice, surely? I am an experienced writer, although I have only self-published, I have written all my life, taught writing all my life, got an MA in creative writing, I really live and breathe writing… so I may be able to suggest little things, little pointers to helping others write the story they really want to write, the best they can… without any criticism of what they already do! I think it’s marvellous that anyone puts pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard and is creative so I would never dream of trying to dampen that spirit by being critical… I want to be helpful!

I also mentioned before that I will be using a course I wrote when  I was teaching young people – modified for adults of course!

Language
Some stories are wonderful to read just because of the beauty of the language.
Beautiful!
Sometimes all the main considerations outlined above are minimal, a slight plot with little action, few characters, an abstract setting, an ambiguous ending, but the power of the writing makes the story memorable and re-readable. It may take a lot of hard work and practice to be able to write a story like this but it is something every writer can aspire to.
  • Make every word count
  • Be self-critical
  • Be disciplined and be hard on yourself

Don’t be afraid to wield the editorial knife

Research…

If you decide to set your novel in an interesting or unusual place, even if you have been there yourself, you may need to do some research to add detail and to make sure your facts are correct.

Hemingford Grey… make the reader believe they have been there…

If your story is set in the past you may need to find out about how people lived in those days.

The same applies to character and plot. If your hero is an Albanian, or your heroine is an astrophysicist, you need to make sure you know something about Albania or astrophysics.

It is very easy to do research now with the vast resources of the internet. You may also like to visit your library or local museum.

Other people are a great resource; if your story is set in the recent past, interview people who were alive at that time; if your story is set in another place or country you may know someone who has lived, worked, or been there. You may be able to visit some of the places your story is set if they are local to you.

Adding extra detail adds interest for your readers; it brings your story alive and makes it more believable.

… and Observation

Observation is the easiest way to do research. Become a people watcher. Become aware of your surroundings and situation. Keep your eyes and ears open for the unusual, the intriguing, the something which might send your imagination racing. Store up what you see and hear either in your head, or in a notebook, log or diary… some people always carry one with them to jot down things which inspire them.

A famous painting by Joseph Wright of Derby… but who are these people? How are they connected? What are they thinking? What will happen next?

Endings

Readers can be very unforgiving if the end of your story is no good.

Ways to disappoint your reader:

  • Ending your story with a whimper not a bang
  • Revealing something right at the end they could not possibly have guessed or that doesn’t fit
  • ‘I woke up and it was all a dream’ (dreams in general can be a big turn off unless you are very skilled)
  • Drivelling on and on so the reader gives up through boredom
  • Not being consistent
  • Ending too soon or not soon enough
  • Not being clear

The end…

… or not!

When you come to the end of your story it is not the end for you as a writer. You have to reread it, trying to put yourself in the position of a reader who is looking at it for the first time. Very difficult!

You can do this by:

  • Reading it out loud (to someone else if you’re brave enough – in a secluded place if it embarrasses you!)
  • Writing it on a wpc not by hand and printing it out so you’re not reading it off the screen
  • Leaving it for a week and coming back to it (difficult if it’s homework)
  • Having someone else read it out loud to you
  • Having someone read it to themselves and make honest (but helpful)  comments
  • Reading it, rereading it, re-rereading it, over and over

By doing this you should see all the things that are wrong with your story and this is where the hard work begins! You want your story to be the best you can make it, rewrite, rework, cross out, delete, substitute, improve!

The end

You will get a terrific sense of satisfaction if you produce the best story you can, that you are pleased with, that you reread and think to yourself ‘Hey, that’s quite good! Hey – I’m quite good!’

 

The End (yes, really!)

Hey! I’m watching you… I’m reading you!

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